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Ex-Pine Cobble Head Faces Child-Porn Charges

Staff Reports
David B. Harris

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A city man and former headmaster of Pine Cobble School in Williamstown was arraigned Monday morning in Northern Berkshire District Court on child pornography charges. 

David B. Harris, 66, of Marion Avenue, pleaded not guilty to possession of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography. Bail was set at $2,500 and Harris was released. The case was continued to Aug. 25 for a bindover hearing. More charges are expected to be filed.

Harris left Pine Cobble in 2000 and was hired as head of school for the Cambridge Montessori School, a private school for children from preschool to ninth grade

According to the district attorney's office, the charges resulted from a two-month investigation that culminated in the execution of a search warrant on Sunday at his home.

The North Adams Transcript reported Monday that state police said they found a laptop with links to pornographic sites featuring young boys, and 10 USB drives, at least one of which contained more than 40 videos that appear to be pornographic. 

In a letter posted on the Cambridge school's website, Webster O'Brien, president of the board of trustees, said Harris has been immediately suspended without pay and that the school will commence a search for an interim head of school for the coming year. (The letter can be found here, too.)

While we can honestly state that we have had no reason to suspect this behavior, and we respect individuals' privacy, these charges leave us no option but to immediately suspend David without pay until the Board of Trustees has enough information to make a final decision.

O'Brien said trustees are "fully confident that these issues reside in David's home in North Adams" and have not affected the Cambridge school.

Harris spent his weekends in North Adams and weekdays living in Cambridge.

He has more than 40 years of experience in education and is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He was headmaster of Pine Cobble from 1989 to 2000; Nicholas M. Edgerton, who replaced him, left earlier this spring. Harris has been headmaster at two other private schools, Upland Country Day School in Kennett Square, Pa., and Eagle Hill School in Lloyd Harbor, N.Y., according to his biography listed on the Cambridge school site. He has sat on numerous educational boards and is a trustee of the Kildonan School in Amenia, N.Y.

Harris founded a consulting firm in 2004 to aid in the placement of gifted or underachieving students to schools that fit their needs but the site, www.schoolsolve.net, does not appear to have fully launched and the domain is for sale. A bio for the site lists Harris at that time as a corporator for Northern Berkshire Health Systems and a member of the North Adams Regional Hospital Ethics Committee; he is no longer listed as a corporator at NBH.

(Update, July 21: Northern Berkshire Healthcare tells us that Harris was a lay member of the Ethics Committee from 1997 to 2002. He is not a corporator and has no current links to the hospital.)

The investigation was conducted by state police detectives assigned to the Berkshire district attorney's office, with assistance from the Massachusetts and New York Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces, state police detectives assigned to the Middlesex district attorney's office and investigators assigned to the New York State attorney general's office.

From the Editor: Because of the sensitive nature of these allegations, we'll be scrutinizing any comments posted here. Any attempts at incitement to violence, smutty remarks and distasteful comments will be removed immediately. Keep it clean, people.

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Fake $10 Bills Buy Charges for North Adams Man

By Patrick Ronan

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A North Adams man was arrested Monday night after allegedly  trying to pass counterfeit money at local businesses throughout the day.

Anthony Mejias, 29, of Hall Street, was arraigned on three counts of uttering counterfeit notes and one count of possession of more than 10 counterfeit notes Tuesday morning at Northern Berkshire District Court. He was also arraigned on four separate charges related to a break-in on Eagle Street that occurred on Sunday.

The additional charges include larceny under the amount of $250, destruction of property over $250, breaking and entering for misdemeanor and attempting to commit a crime (breaking and entering).

On Monday, Mejias was apprehended by police at approximately 9 p.m. on Walnut Street after reports that he tried to use a fake $10 bill at Dairy Queen, located at 465 Curran Memorial Highway. Earlier in the day, at approximately 2:25 p.m., police were alerted that a man tried to pass fake $10 bills at Lopardo's Package Store, located at 8 River St.

According to police reports, Mejias was seen entering Domino's Pizza, at 1 River St., and the Shell gas station, at 458 Curran Memorial Highway, during the day. There has been no confirmation that he tried to use fake money at those locations.

Mejias was held on $5,000 bail Monday night.

Sgt. James Foley said the notes resembled a legitimate $10 bill at first glance, but a closer look revealed they were obviously counterfeit.

"You could tell they were fake by the feel of them and by the look of them," Foley said.

It's unknown how Mejias created the counterfeit currency, according to Foley. The sergeant said there is "no indication" that Mejias successfully used any of his fake bills to complete a local business transaction.

"We get [these reports] every once and a while," Foley said. "They usually make them on a copy machine, and they usually get caught."

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Supreme Surprise for Alleged Robber

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Workers at Supreme Pizza halted a robbery on Monday night at about 7:30.

A man reportedly entered the pizzeria at the corner of Main and Eagle streets and demanded money. When the clerk refused and called for help from cooks and staff, the man reportedly grabbed the register and tried to run. He was tackled by the workers and arrested within minutes by police.

Robert M. MacDonald, 32, of West Pine Street, Adams, has so far been charged with malicious destruction of property more than $250 (the cash register). The incident is still under investigation.

Update: June 29, 2010

MacDonald was held on $10,000 bail on Monday night. He was charged in Northern Berkshire District Court on Tuesday with armed robbery; assault and battery with a dangerous weapon; assault and batter, and destruction of property more than $250.

The defendant had a folding knife with a 4-inch blade in his pocket, prompting the armed robbery charge, although police say he did not remove it from his pocket. MacDonald reportedly ripped the computerized cash register out, damaging the machine and wiring and hitting the young woman clerk in the process, according to Sgt. James Foley.

He was belligerent when he entered the pizzeria, according to employees, and demanded money from the clerk. When he pulled out the register, he headed for the Main Street entrance but three of the cooks jumped into action and tackled him before he reached the door.

 

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Truck Fire Shuts Down Section of Mohawk Trail

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A truck caught fire on the Mohawk Trail late Thursday afternoon, prompting police to close off a portion of Route 2 for about an hour and a half.

North Adams Police and Fire departments responded to the blaze, which occurred about a quarter-mile east of West Shaft Road.

North Adams Fire Director Steve Meranti said there were no injuries, and that the fire was contained to the tractor portion of the vehicle and did not spread to the trailer. He said the cause was most likely "a mechanical malfunction."

At approximately 4:30 p.m., two Dean's Quality Auto trucks arrived for cleanup and towing. Meranti expected the road to be re-opened by 5:30 p.m.

Check back later for more information.

Update at 7:04 p.m.

The truck, which was eastbound on Route 2,  was a white 2000 Sterling semi tractor-trailer driven by Edward J. St. John, 68,  of Royalston and owned by Kenneth D. Pratt, operating as Pratt Transport of Winchendon. The trailer is owned by B&B Truck Leasing of Jefferson, Maine.

Ambulances were dispatched but St. John was not taken to the hospital.

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Van, Car Crash on State Road

Staff Reports

Emergency vehicles responded to a two-vehicle accident on State Road on Thursday afternoon.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A two-vehicle accident slowed traffic just west of the Stop & Shop on State Road on Thursday afternoon.

A small blue 2008 Honda Vivic sedan apparently collided with the back end of a Berkshire Gas van shortly after 1 p.m. Both vehicles were in the eastbound lane.

The driver was still in the car at 1:12  p.m. and speaking to police. An ambulance, several cruisers and two fire trucks were dispatched to the scene. The driver was taken to North Adams Regional Hospital with unknown injuries.  We'll update with more information later.

Update at 6:51 p.m.:

The driver of the Honda, Kathleen M. Casey, 59, of Williamstown was charged with reckless operation of the motor vehicle.

The driver of Berkshire Gas' 2001 Chevrolet Express Van was Craig F. Hamelin, 49,  of  Cheshire.

Both drivers were taken to North Adams Regional Hospital by North Adams Ambulance. The Honda was towed by Cariddi Auto and the van by Dean's Quality Auto. The accident was reported at 1:07 p.m.

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